Foundation and Chaos

Page 30

“Yes, Your Highness. I will have this investigated immediately--”

“It should be simple,” Klayus said. “Sinter, the identity papers have a genotype and picture ID, do they not?”

“The body--this body--physically, the same as the picture” the commander said.

“An impostor!” Sinter shouted, and waved his fist at the guards and the commander. “An extraordinary breach of security!”

Klayus watched this with some relief. It was all well and good to torment Sinter, then to be annoyed at him, but not to lose him--not just yet. There were yet a few more hands to play against Linge Chen, and Chen’s Commission was responsible for the security of the Emperor.

This could all be quite useful, even essential. Chen would have to explain the lapse, Sinter’s stock would certainly rise--but not out of Klayus’s acceptable and controlling parameters--and it could all work out handily.

“Let’s examine her,” Sinter said.

“I’ll stay here,” Klayus said, his face greening at the thought of seeing another corpse.

Ten minutes later, the commander and guards returned, and Sinter as well.

“The match is perfect,” Sinter said, waving the woman’s papers. “This--in the personal--is an impostor, and you are responsible!” He pointed the finger without hesitation at the commander.

Commander Mint had assumed a mask of deep calm. He nodded once, reached into his pocket, and removed a small packet. The others in the Emperor’s sleep chamber watched with horrible fascination as he placed the packet against his lips.

“No!” Klayus said, lifting his hand.

Mint stopped and looked round with hopeful walleyes.

“But sire, it is mandatory, for such a breach!” Sinter cried out, as if worried his accusers might get away with their crimes.

“Yes, of course, Farad, but not here, please. One creature has died in these chambers already. One more below...” He choked into his handkerchief. “I have to sleep and...and concentrate here, and it will be difficult enough without...this, as well.” He waved his hand at Mint, who nodded brusquely, and removed himself to the outer halls to perform his final duty.

Even Sinter seemed impressed by this ritual, though he did not follow to see it carried out. Klayus lifted himself off the bed and pretended to look away as the body of the would-be assassin was lifted on its shrouded stretcher and conveyed from the personal.

To Sinter, he said, “An hour. Let me recuperate a little, then show me your evidence, and bring me this Mors Planch.”

“Yes, sire!” Sinter said enthusiastically, and scuttled to leave.

Let him think he has won big. Let Linge Chen suffer a little for this stupidity. Let them all dance around the young idiot. I will have my day!

I have survived! It is predestined!


Astonishment is different in a robot. Lodovik had seen Daneel perform many difficult feats over the decades, but he had never known how deeply Daneel’s influence penetrated the layers of bureaucratic infrastructure on Trantor. As First Minister Demerzel, Daneel must have spent a substantial portion of his time (perhaps his hours of unneeded sleep) planting records, instructions and useful diversions in the Imperial and palace computers--any one of which could lie unnoticed for decades or even centuries, quietly passing themselves along as part of the standard records with each upgrade and maintenance cycle...And even propagating themselves to the records and machines of other Sectors, finally girdling Trantor.

Rissik Numant, Lodovik’s new identity, had been established decades before. Daneel simply slipped in a few details of physical appearance, and an old meritocrat returned to life on Trantor--a manqué diplomat-theorist, seen at many parties but seldom if ever remembered, once known as a ruthless seducer of women who ruthlessly consented to be seduced. He had not appeared much in Trantorian social life for decades, having slipped away to Dau of the Thousand Golden Suns, where he had (it was rumored) learned to control his baser impulses over twenty years of study among the obscure sect known as the Cortical Monks.

The ruse was so complete that Lodovik regretted it would soon have to be abandoned.

A robot’s experience of surprise is different. Lodovik discovered that Daneel was going to let him loose on Trantor, unsupervised, to perform his duties. He would move into a small apartment not far from the agora in the Imperial Sector (another safe accommodation, kept vacant but paid for) and carry out a few social visits to old acquaintances who would, doubtless, remember him vaguely if at all. Slowly, over a period of months, Rissik Numant would return to the social scene, make an impression, and lie in wait for some role in Daneel’s plans--perhaps as part of the grand design woven around Hari Seldon.

A robot’s experience of affection is very different. Lodovik regarded Dors Venabili as an extraordinary creation, in some ways a perfect model for his new unrestrained self to emulate. She had about her an air of what humans would have called tragedy; she seldom spoke unless addressed directly, seldom offered any contributions to the conversations between the robots. She seemed lost in her own thought processes, and Lodovik understood why. Very likely Daneel understood as well.

Attachment to an individual human could be very affecting to a robot. They arranged all their inner heuristics to anticipate the needs of their master, and to ameliorate any problems he or she might suffer. Dors, whatever her repairs and refitting under the instruments of Yan Kansarv, had not yet--and perhaps never would--remove the influence of Hari Seldon. This was a condition known in ancient times as fixing; Lodovik knew that Daneel had once “fixed” on the legendary Bay-Lee, Elijah Bailey.

Dors was receiving her final instructions from Daneel by microwave link; they stood a meter apart from each other in the small, low-ceilinged main room, while Lodovik waited quietly by the door.

When they were done, Daneel turned to Lodovik. “Hari’s trial will begin soon. There will be difficulties after the trial is concluded. We must all do our most important work now.” Dors moved to join them, forming a circle of three figures. When Daneel spoke now, it was with a barely discernible tremor of concern, emotion perhaps--the long habit of appearing human. “This is the prime moment of the Cusp Time. If we fail, there will likely be thirty thousand years of disintegration and human misery, of horror unimaginable to any of us. This must not and will not happen.”

Lodovik felt a different sort of tremor, a different sort of horror. He could imagine what would happen if Daneel succeeded--thousands of years of slow, safe suffocation, humanity cushioned and insulated and restrained by velvet-covered chains until it became nothing more than a huge, comfortable, unchallenged mass, an idiotic fungal growth tended by fastidious machines.

Dors, now Jenat Korsan, stood between the two male-forms, silent and calm, waiting. Patience is different in a robot...

Daneel made a small gesture with his right hand, and Lodovik and Dors departed to begin their new roles.

Scholars have long accepted that Gaal Dornick’s biography of Hari Seldon contains significant lacunae. Where Dornick was not present, or where constraints were put upon him by the official” hagiography” of Seldon--or even where editors and censors in the middle Foundation years suppressed certain suspect passages--we must look deeper into the circumstances, using subtle clues, to understand what actually happened.

--Encyclopedia Galactica, 117th Edition, 1054 F.E.


They came for Hari Seldon at Streeling University. They did not at first appear to be officers of the Commission of Public Safety; the two, woman and man, were dressed as students. They entered his office by appointment, on the pretext of obtaining an interview for a student periodical.

The woman, clearly in charge, pulled up the sleeve of her civilian jacket to show him the official Commission sigil of spaceship, sun, and judicial wand. She was small, with a strong build, pale features, broad shoulders, a heavy jaw. “We don’t need to make a fuss about this,” she said. Her colleague, a tall, wispy male with a concentrated expression and a condescending smile, nodded agreement.

“Of course not,” Hari said, and began to gather his papers and filmbooks into a case he had kept on hand for just such an occasion. He hoped to be able to do some work while the trial proceeded.

“Those won’t be necessary,” the woman said, and took them from him, setting them gently beside the desk. A few papers spilled over and he bent to straighten them. She held his shoulder and he looked up at her. She shook her head decisively. “No time, professor. Leave a message on your office monitor that you’ll be gone for two weeks. It shouldn’t take that long. If all turns out well, no one will be any the wiser, and you can get back to your work, no?”

He straightened, looked around the office with jaw clenched, then nodded. “All right,” he said. “One of my colleagues will be here in a few hours, and I don’t know where to reach him--”

“Sorry.” The woman lifted her eyebrows in sympathy, but with no further discussion, together, they led him through the door.

Hari did not know how he felt about the arrest at first. He was nervous, even frightened wouldn’t be too strong a word; but he was also confident. Still, nothing having to do with the near future could ever be certain; perhaps what he saw in the Prime Radiant was not his own world-line, but the world-line of another professor, another student of psychohistory, fifty or a hundred years from now. Perhaps all this would lead to his quiet execution, and his work and the assembled workers of the Project would all be scattered. Perhaps Daneel would reconvene them after Hari’s demise...

All very aggravating, to be sure. But growing old had taught Hari that death was simply another kind of delay, and that individuals only mattered for a certain small period of time. The body human could usually grow new individuals to replace those it most needed. Of course, it was presumptuous to think that he was one of those essential types who would be replaced...But that is what the figures indicated, one way or another.

Hari had never much minded being thought presumptuous. Either he would succeed, or someone very like him.

They entered an unmarked air cruiser outside the apartment-block main entrance. Without requesting clearance, the cruiser rose, crossed between two support towers, and zipped into a traffic lane out of Streeling, heading toward the Imperial Sector. He had taken this route many times before.

“Don’t be nervous,” the woman said.

“I’m not nervous,” Hari lied, glancing at her. “How many have you arrested recently?”

“I can’t tell you that,” she said with a cheerful grin.

“We seldom get to take in people so famous,” the man said.

“How would you have heard of me?” Hari asked, genuinely curious.

“We’re not ignorant,” the man said with a sniff. “We keep track of high politics. Helps us in our work.”

The woman gave her partner a warning glance. He shrugged and stared straight ahead.

Hari turned his eyes forward as they entered a main traffic tunnel in the security barrier around the Imperial Sector. The air cruiser emerged from the tunnel, veered sharply left out of the main flow, then circled a dark blue smooth-walled cylindrical tower that rose almost to the ceil. The cruiser slowed, shivered, and docked on a mid-level platform. The platform withdrew with the cruiser into a brightly lighted hangar.

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